Blue Jays: Can Carrera be trusted on defence?
The outfield defence for the Blue Jays was a concern going into the 2017 campaign, but it’s hard to imagine anyone saw Ezequiel Carrera as arguably the weakest link.
The Blue Jays squared off against the Oakland Athletics again on Tuesday night, in a game that could have easily gone the other way for Toronto. A few more timely hits, or perhaps some better decisions on the base paths, and it could have been a different outcome when it was all said and done.
It didn’t help that they left 8 runners on base, had 2 cut off at the plate, and went 2-8 with runners in scoring position. However, once again it was some shoddy outfield defence that seemed to shift the game’s momentum.
When the year began, the thought was that Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista would be the regulars in the outfield, with Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce forming some sort of platoon in left field, and Pearce also getting regular at bats at first base. That was before Justin Smoak started performing like an All-Star, and prior to Pearce’s injury, so things have changed a bit on the Blue Jays’ depth chart.
The concern at the beginning of the season was whether Jose Bautista could actually handle playing in the outfield on a regular basis, but he’s looked pretty reasonable in right despite a defensive rating of bWAR -0.8. His arm has been much stronger and he’s moving far better than he did in 2016.
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Oddly enough, the greater concern has been the defence of Carrera, who has looked lost at times in left, as was the case on Tuesday night.
He was bailed out by teammate Kevin Pillar early in the game when he lost a ball in the lights. To his credit, he did make a great throw to home as well on Tuesday, nabbing Stephen Vogt at the plate, who was trying to score.
However, it was the misplay in the 6th inning on a Ryan Healy drive to left that exposed Carrera in the outfield again. On a sinking liner that should have been caught, Carrera pulled back at the last second and allowed the ball to skip past him. It turned into a run scoring double, and the A’s plated two in the inning, which could have been avoidable.
Despite the fact that it looked like he lost the ball in the lights for a second time on the evening, the picture of a flustered Carrera in left is becoming far too common these days. This is a player that generally gets the nod in centre field when Kevin Pillar gets a day off, and now he looks like a man who needs a serious confidence boost. In fact, he currently sits at -1.0 bWAR on defence, which puts him on pace for his worst performance as a pro.
When Pearce returns, he likely will see next to no time at first base, assuming Smoak doesn’t fall into serious regression. If Pearce can show something with the bat and play reasonable defence, there’s a good chance that Carrera could find himself on the bench with a lot more regularity. Corner outfielders generally need to be a significant asset at the plate, and while Carrera has performed admirably, he doesn’t fit the proto-type all that well.
And if he’s not going to be at least at average defensive outfielder, that could spell the end of his days as a regular starter. Whether the Blue Jays choose to use Pearce in left, or seek an upgrade at the trade deadline (as discussed by our own Brendan Pannikar), a change will eventually be made unless there is some serious improvements made over the next 4-6 weeks.
Next: Blue Jays: Estrada still plagued by the first inning
Carrera has been a favourite of manager, John Gibbons, and admittedly a player that I’ve rooted for to prove he’s worthy of being a starter. That said, if he can’t find himself in the outfield in the near future, it becomes nearly impossible to keep putting him in the lineup.